Honduras: Lawyers at Risk

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I just listened to a group of Honduran lawyers, who were exhausted, frustrated and in fear, as they explained their efforts to defend citizens’ rights in their country.

The lawyers were here to ask for help from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. Their message was:

Human rights violations continue under the new administration of President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, and little justice has been obtained for violations taking place since the June 28th coup. This lack of justice was also just denounced by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in its March 2010 report.

But the troubles are not over.  No less than 7 people have been killed in what appear to be politically motivated, targeted assassinations since the new administration took office.   Two were journalists.  The latest was a teacher who was killed on Monday in front of a classroom full of students.

“Those who have been killed are mostly not national leaders but community-level leaders,” one explained.  “Many are from the neighborhoods that were the most active protesting against the coup.”

“We do our jobs, we file our cases, but we’re not supported,” explained one woman in desperation. “Our justice system just can’t seem to be able to prosecute the cases of human rights abuses committed following the coup.  But it is all too eager to prosecute the cases against protestors.”

As they help to defend clients who were jailed for protesting and similar charges, the lawyers themselves are being labeled and targeted.  And threatened.  “We’re being followed. We get threats.  Our faces are known.  We’re professionals, this is what we do, but they insult us, label us.”  The lawyers are representing 111 people being prosecuted on charges related to peaceful protests.

“I hope God will protect us,” said one lawyer.  “We’re running great risks.”

“Don’t forget us. We don’t know where to turn.”

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